Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Divrei Torah

Starting the 10 Steps of Creation

R. Arama is ready to read the first chapter of Bereishit with us (which, conveniently, we just read in shul, so we hopefully have these passages more in mind than we might usually), to find the “10 sayings” a Mishnah in Avot said Hashem used to create the world. As you recall, he has decided the first of those sayings was yehi or, let

Vayeira: Seeing the Future

Parshat Vayeira has always troubled me. A quick look at the text would seem to suggest that Sara lied to Hashem. Just after one of the three angels visiting Avraham says that at this time next year Sara will have a son, the Chumash states:

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, coming on in years; Sarah had

Let’s Do It

Bereishit 5779

What are the Three Scariest Words (TSW) in the English language? There was an NPR piece about the TSW a boy can hear. They were “be a man.” Some people still think that “I love you” are the TSW. Some

Appointing a Past Sinner

Is someone who sinned in his youth qualified to serve in a communal position, such as a pulpit rabbi? Can a ba’al teshuva, someone who grew up non-observant, be appointed to such a position? This question is particularly relevant given recent discussions about a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. While I am not

Being Free to Fly Upwards

Yom Kippur is a day of Divine forgiveness. If we have done the work we need to do, we are told in the Torah that “On this day he will atone for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins, before the Lord you will be cleansed.” (Lev. 16:30). But what is that work that we must

A Blessing Past and Present

I have always felt bad for Parshat V’zot Habracha. It is the only parsha that is not read on a Shabbos, unless, of course, Simchat Torah coincides with Shabbos. Why? Why this irregularity? Indeed, the whole procedure for Torah reading on Simchat Torah is most irregular and disconcerting. It is unlike

Be Prepared: Ki Tavo 5778

When I was young, preparing for New Year’s was simple: Who would provide the house? And who would provide the alcohol? But I was young, pre-religious and New Year’s was January 1. Now that I’ve been observant for half a century, preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, has proved much

Akeidat Yitzchak: Where Torah Fits In

We closed last time with the idea of both Creation and Torah as the ways for people to learn about Hashem. To speak of Torah as how people find their way to their fullest purpose runs the risk of treating it as a tool, subordinate to man, which contradicts other traditions about Torah.

The Narrows

Bein Hameitzarim 5778

 Scylla and Charybdis, between a rock and a hard place, out of the frying pan into the

Ramban to the Book of Bamidbar: Becoming Our Best Selves, With a Divine Background

I built this project on an assumption: by taking comments of Ramban’s as they appealed to me, with no attempt to relate them to each other, I would over the course of time nonetheless find recurring motifs, which would reflect underlying concerns of Ramban’s. My goal was to let Ramban speak for

Fear Itself: Chukat 5778

Boo! I feel that’s the word that should begin every political speech these days. It would be wonderful if the political discussion in both of my beloved countries could be based on reason, intellect and maybe even a little morality, but fear is the spice of the day for political discourse. I

Death and War

The Nature of the Impurity of Death

My temerity in thinking I can communicate Ramban’s ideas briefly and accessibly depends on my selection process, where I often leave out deep

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